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Some investors rely on dividends for growing their wealth, and if you're one of those dividend sleuths, you might be intrigued to know that Argan, Inc. (NYSE:AGX) is about to go ex-dividend in just 4 days. The ex-dividend date is usually set to be one business day before the record date which is the cut-off date on which you must be present on the company's books as a shareholder in order to receive the dividend. The ex-dividend date is important as the process of settlement involves two full business days. So if you miss that date, you would not show up on the company's books on the record date. Thus, you can purchase Argan's shares before the 21st of July in order to receive the dividend, which the company will pay on the 30th of July.
The company's next dividend payment will be US$0.25 per share. Last year, in total, the company distributed US$1.00 to shareholders. Calculating the last year's worth of payments shows that Argan has a trailing yield of 2.1% on the current share price of $46.54. Dividends are a major contributor to investment returns for long term holders, but only if the dividend continues to be paid. We need to see whether the dividend is covered by earnings and if it's growing.
Dividends are typically paid from company earnings. If a company pays more in dividends than it earned in profit, then the dividend could be unsustainable. That's why it's good to see Argan paying out a modest 44% of its earnings. Yet cash flow is typically more important than profit for assessing dividend sustainability, so we should always check if the company generated enough cash to afford its dividend. Luckily it paid out just 10% of its free cash flow last year.
It's encouraging to see that the dividend is covered by both profit and cash flow. This generally suggests the dividend is sustainable, as long as earnings don't drop precipitously.
Have Earnings And Dividends Been Growing?
Stocks with flat earnings can still be attractive dividend payers, but it is important to be more conservative with your approach and demand a greater margin for safety when it comes to dividend sustainability. If earnings fall far enough, the company could be forced to cut its dividend. With that in mind, we're not enthused to see that Argan's earnings per share have remained effectively flat over the past five years. Better than seeing them fall off a cliff, for sure, but the best dividend stocks grow their earnings meaningfully over the long run.
Many investors will assess a company's dividend performance by evaluating how much the dividend payments have changed over time. In the last nine years, Argan has lifted its dividend by approximately 5.8% a year on average.
Should investors buy Argan for the upcoming dividend? While it's not great to see that earnings per share are effectively flat over the nine-year period we checked, at least the payout ratios are low and conservative. It might be worth researching if the company is reinvesting in growth projects that could grow earnings and dividends in the future, but for now we're not all that optimistic on its dividend prospects.
With that in mind, a critical part of thorough stock research is being aware of any risks that stock currently faces. For example - Argan has 2 warning signs we think you should be aware of.
A common investment mistake is buying the first interesting stock you see. Here you can find a list of promising dividend stocks with a greater than 2% yield and an upcoming dividend.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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